Monday, June 15, 2015

Things that Rock My World

Living far from home, in a third-world country, it is easy to think about the things that you miss or that aren't done the way you are accustomed to (the shopping cart situation, anyone??). However, this post is about some things here in Pagaguay that rock my world, and I wish were in the good old U.S. of A.


The beer here might not be good, but it sure is cold. When the most common beer size is a liter, it's important to keep it from getting warm. These things rock. I was soooo disappointed when I ordered beer in Chile and it wasn't served like this.

Shopping Baskets with Wheels
I mean, does it get any more convenient than this? I don't know about you, but I always get a basket, thinking "I just need a few things." Then stick a gallon of milk in it (back in my customary unit days when I could buy milk by the gallon) and have to haul it through the store. Who needs. that.

Tiny Cans of Tomato Sauce
Because sometimes all you need is 70 ml (2.3 ounces). Just right! No more partially used cans growing mold in your fridge.

But I saved the best for last. Maybe no one but teachers will appreciate this, but you guys will see, this is big:
Pre-sharpened Pencils

That's just how they are sold here. Is that cool or what? Now if you're not a teacher, you're wondering what the big deal is. But when faced with 28 kids on the first day of school, who all have their 36 new unsharpened pencils and not a blessed thing to write with, you get it. This is good since, incidentally, I haven't found an electric pencil sharpener that works here.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Back to Patagonia: The W Trek, Torres del Paine

When I went to Patagonia in January of 2014, I knew I'd be heading back the following year. This time, my mom and her husband met me in Punta Arenas and we took an "Active Adventures" tour with tons of hiking. Many of the places (Perito Moreno & El Chalten) I had been to, but several I hadn't (Torres del Paine). I don't normally see places by tour, but it was nice to step away from planning every bit of transportation, food, and lodging for awhile-especially after weeks on the road!! This first batch of pictures is from our four-day "W" trek in Torres del Paine, Chile.

And we're off! In our bus to Torres del Paine (blue towers) National Park

We saw guanacos and rhea on the way

Ready to start!

Up, up, up we go. Great views and decent weather for day 1

After we dropped our packs off and had lunch at the first refugio, we continued up, up, up.

We made it, and as we arrived, the clouds lifted! These are the towers the park is named after-and a highlight of the whole trip!

We saw a fox on the way back.

Hiking day 2: this was an easy and mostly downhill day. We stayed in Refugio Los Cuernos

Usually this is the only view we'd get of Mark as his long legs carried him far ahead of us!

Los Cuernos, or the horns

Panorama of Lago Nordenskold

Day 3: Paine Grande in the background. This was the longest day. We went up from Campamiento Italiano and lunched with this view. Then we hiked (and hiked and hiked and hiked!!) to get to our refugio for the night. It was sunny in this picture but got very windy on the way. 

While we were eating lunch we could see and hear small avalanches in the distance.

Hiking through the trees

Michelle, my sometimes-roommate, crossing a wobbly bridge! They'd only let us cross 1-2 at a time, so these bridges always had backlogs. 
Day 4 was much shorter, we hiked from Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Gray. Some of the group went ice climbing but we opted out! It was incredibly windy and unpleasant on this day! We were supposed to kayak in the afternoon but it was postponed until the next morning due to the wind. Yay! Time to relax, read, and drink a beer!

The next morning the wind had died down and we were able to kayak and get close to the glacier and these little iceburgs.

That afternoon we took a boat back to the road and (after another bit of hiking) our bus. Pisco sours were served!

All our backpacks had to be pulled behind us

What a view.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Guatape, Colombia

My last stop in Colombia was definitely my favorite. I went to the lakeside town of Guatape for a night, and ended up staying for about a week, until I had to catch my next flight south. It was only a couple hours from Medellin, but a world of difference! I'd spent too much time in big cities, and it was nice to be out in the country a bit more, with outdoor activities!

On my first day I did what everyone does in Guatape: climb the 740 steps up the nearby La Piedra. The view was worth it!

The next day found me hiking to a nearby waterfall with some fellow hostellers.

I then spent a lazy day exploring the town. All of the buildings have cute fresco-like paintings on the sides. Some advertise what's sold inside, and others are just cute.
The next day a few of us at the hostel hired a driver, and went to the neighboring town of San Rafael. Here, we went on another hike to a waterfall/swimming hole, had lunch in the town and met some cute kids, and walked along a river looking for monkeys (no monkeys) and swam some more. 

Finally, my last full day in Guatape I spent learning to do something new: I took a standup paddleboard lesson! I've always wanted to try it, and water sports were big in the town. It was pretty fun!

You can see the piedra in the background here!
 My next two days involved 3 bus rides, a hostel, 3 flights, a 12-hour layover, an other un-blog-worthy activity-but I ended up in southern Chile, ready for the next leg of this adventure!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Colombia: Medellin City Tour

Even though it's Colombia's 2nd biggest city, I had never heard of Medellin until I started my international job hunt. Due to the climate, it was actually my #1 choice for a job (but they didn't pick me!). Medellin used to have a terrible reputation during the 90's due to lots and lots of drug violence and the infamous Pablo Escobar. Now, though, it's a beautiful city and the local paisas are very proud of their city-and they LOVE tourists! On my first day here I took a free city tour, where most of the photos were taken. Many locals said hello, welcome to Medellin! The tour guide explained that Colombians are just so happy that they are now a popular tourist destination, after so many years of violence. As a free plug, the city tour (Real City Tours) was about 5 hours long and it was amazing!! Highly recommended. There is a lot of history in the city, and the locals are none to eager to paint their city in a negative light, so the tour was a good way to learn about it. 

There are sculptures, statues, parks, and art EVERYWHERE in this city!
In the background is the Parque Cisneros and Plaza de Las Luces -Plaza of Lights. It used to be a dangerous slum with lots of drugs, with but the city turned it into a lovely park. It's beautiful at night!
One of my few selfies this trip!

Used to be the National a shopping mall. 

Remember these guys from Bogota? Yep, more Botero sculptures!

A cathedral that was never finished...some problem with the architect or the money.

This Botero sculpture of a bird was destroyed by a bombing in 1995 that killed 20 people. The city hurried to remove it but Botero asked that it be kept as a reminder. He also fashioned a new one, below, which stands beside it. 

Parque San Antonio, where both of the above statues are, was completely deserted. In a country that loves to congregate outside in parks, it was very strange. I was told that paisas would rather not dwell on the history of violence in their city, so maybe that's why.